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PAST EVENTS

Our nature families have been busy out exploring nature.  
Here are a few of the things we've been up to....
 
Missed an event?  No problem.  You'll find all the details below to plan your own family nature adventures.  See more of the fun in our Gallery.

Wildflower Hike at Stephenson Nature Preserve

Spring is in the air and wildflowers are popping up all over Austin. We celebrated the arrival of another spring with a Wildflower Hike at Stephenson Nature Preserve in South Austin. The kids led us on a rainy hike in the preserve using guides to identify the wildflowers they found including pink primrose, purple wild onions and, of course, bluebonnets.

Plan Your Visit:

Stephenson Nature Preserve

7501 Longview Road, Austin, Texas 78745

Yett Creek Hike

We had a bunch of busy beavers on this bright sunny morning in the woods at Yett Creek, one of our favorite secret places in Austin. We climbed trees, splashed in the stream and worked together to gather big logs to add to the fort. The big kids learned to tie knots and lash branches together, and one mama even made branch swings, which were just about the best thing ever.

Plan Your Visit:
 

Yett Creek Neighborhood Park - South Trailhead

12510 West Cow Path, Austin, Texas

Palmetto State Park Campout

Our inaugural Nature Playdate family campout was nearly rained out, but a few adventurous families braved the rain to come out and play with us.  Nothing like rain and mud to build friendship among kids and grown-ups, too.

 

Plan Your Visit:

 

Palmetto State Park, Gonzales, Texas

About one hour from Austin and San Antonio

Park Info & Directions: http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/palmetto

McKinney Falls Hike

We spent a beautiful February morning exploring McKinney Falls State Park. We hiked the interpretive trail, checked out the waterfalls and learned how their crevices were once used to make soup, hid out in the limestone cliffs and splashed in Onion Creek.

Plan Your Visit:
 

McKinney Falls State Park

5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, Texas 78744

Compass Skills at Reed Park

We continued our "directions" theme with a kid-sized exploration of compasses, the magnetic poles and the cardinal directions (North, South, East and West). We learned about magnets and made our own compasses, which helped us locate a special treasure hidden in Reed Park. Afterwards, the kids said they could rescue us if we ever got lost in the woods.

Plan Your Visit:
 

Reed Park

2600 Pecos Street, Austin, 78703

Map Skills at St Edwards Park

Our first theme of 2017 was directions, so we started by practicing our map skills on the colorful trails at St Edwards Park. The kids pulled out their maps, plotted their course, stopped to confer at every trail crossing and proudly led the grown-ups down to Bull Creek, where they found the perfect spot for some of our favorite Nature Playdate things - balancing on logs, climbing trees, throwing rocks in the creek and, of course, running away from "dinosaurs." 

Plan Your Visit:

St Edwards Park

7301 Spicewood Springs Road, Austin, TX 78759

Holiday Nature Crafts at Pease Park

Our little group braved the cold weather to celebrate the coming season with a morning at Pease Park in Central Austin. We took a short hike along the Ramble to collect nature materials - leaves, feathers, berries, seeds - to take home for nature crafts and ornament-making.

Plan Your Visit:
 

Pease Park

1100 Kingsbury St, Austin

Black Friday Hike on the Greenbelt

We chose to #optoutside this Thanksgiving with a Black Friday Hike for the whole family. We grabbed all our houseguests and hit the trails - hiking, splashing in the creek, climbing rocks, looking for the biggest leaves, experimenting with seed pods and enjoying a little fresh air before tackling the leftover pumpkin pie.

Plan Your Visit:
 

Barton Creek Greenbelt - Spyglass / Taco Deli Access

1601 Spyglass Drive, Austin

Wildflower Center

We spent the morning exploring one of our favorite sports in Austin - the Luci and Ian Family Garden at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. We pretended we were birds, tried to catch fish in the pond, ran in the fields, watered flowers, climbed trees, balanced on rocks and played hard. 

Plan Your Visit:
 

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
4801 La Crosse Avenue, Austin, TX 78739

www.Wildflower.org

Springdale Farm

We were invited back for a second year to visit the remarkable Springdale Farm, a family-owned sustainable urban farm in East Austin. We toured the farm inspecting everything currently in season, collected pecans, fed the chickens, de-seeded loofahs for Springdale Handmade's gorgeous soaps, played with Ellie May and made pumpkin planters.  What a great morning on the farm!  Thanks so much to Glenn and Paula for the warm welcome!

Plan Your Visit:
 

Springdale Farm
755 Springdale Road, Austin, TX 78702

www.SpringdaleFarmAustin.com

Their farm stand and grounds are open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 am - 1 pm.

Storytime Yoga at Mayfield Park

Nature kids stand tall like mountains, sneak through the grass like cobras and balance like three-legged dogs.  We spread out our yoga mats at one of our favorite local spots, the lovely Mayfield Park, for a morning of kid-friendly storytime yoga.  We stretched out our bodies and shook out our giggles as we tried different animal and nature poses inspired by Mariam Gates' book Good Morning Yoga and some amazing yoga mamas and kids.  And, of course, no visit to Mayfield is complete without a visit with its real animals - the peacocks, turtles and koi - a splash in the stream and some tree climbing.  

Plan Your Visit:
 

Mayfield Park

3505 West 35th Street, Austin, TX 78703

www.mayfieldpark.org

Rainbows at Ramsey Park

All the rain had us thinking about rainbows!  We read rainbow books, learned about how rainbows are made, found rainbows in our bubbles, made rainbow jewelry and ate fruit in all the colors of the rainbow (plus a few marshmallow clouds!).  
Plan Your Visit:
 
Ramsey Park
4301 North Rosedale Ave, Austin, TX 78756
 

Second Annual Bat Watching Picnic at the Congress Avenue Bridge

At the end of our second summer, we met again for an evening picnic on the lawn under the Congress Avenue Bridge at the Austin American-Statesman's Bat Observation Center to observe and learn more about the largest urban bat colony in the world.  Although the bats waited to emerge until after dusk this year (when it was too dark to see much), we still had fun making "bat hats," sharing snow cones and lighting the way with our glow sticks.
 
And we're still very grateful to the bats for consuming 30,000 pounds of insects every night. Thank you, bats!
 
Plan your visit:
 
Austin American-Statesman's Bat Observation Center
305 South Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
www.batcon.org/congress
 
Bats can be viewed at dusk from April through October.  For current emergence times, call Bat Conservation Internaional at 512-327-9721.  You can learn more about Austin's bat colony and the great work being done by the folks at Bat Conservation International by visiting www.batcon.org.

Wild Basin Hike

The kids led the way on the trails at Wild Basin.  We practiced our map-reading skills as we hiked down to the waterfall, which was a special treat after a few weeks of rain.  The kids loved the new exhibits in the research center where they learned about how birds' beaks are adapted to different food sources and checked out LOTS of bugs and other creepy crawlies under the telescopes.

 

Plan Your Visit:

 

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

805 North Capital of Texas Highway

Austin, TX 78746

Emma Long Swim & Sandcastles

We spent our last Nature Playdate before our big kids head back to school swimming, jumping off the pier and building sandcastles on the beach at Emma Long Park.  We even made a volcano in the sand and all put our hands into the "boiling hot lava."

Plan Your Visit:

 

Emma Long

1600 City Park Road, Austin, TX 78730

School of Ants Citizen Science Project

Calling all citizen scientists!  We made ant-collecting kits (cookies on an index card!) and deployed them at Katherine Fleischer Park in Wells Branch.  Our plan was to record our observations and send what we collected to the School of Ants entomologists at North Carolina State Univeristy to identify the ants and map their biodiversity around the United States.  While we were pretty surprised that our ant collecting devices attracted only ONE ANT, our citizen scientists still learned lots about setting up experiments, making hypotheses, recording observations and wondering why things sometimes turn out differently than we expect.

  

Plan Your Visit:

Katherine Fleischer Park

2106 Klattenhoff Drive, Austin, TX 78728

Learn more about the School of Ants Project and contribute your own collection by visiting www.SchoolofAnts.org.

Letterboxing at Beverly Sheffield Park

We tried our hand at letterboxing at Beverly Sheffield Park in Austin's Allandale neighborhood.  If you haven't tried it before, letterboxing is a scavenger hunt where you follow clues left by other participants to find boxes hidden in public spaces around the city.  We found 3 out of the 4 boxes recorded at the park, worked our brains and our legs and collected a few new stamps for our collection.

Plan Your Visit:

Beverly S. Sheffield Northwest District Park

7000 Ardath Street, Austin, TX 78757

Learn more about letterboxing here and here.

Hike and Splash at Bull Creek

We shared a magnificent morning of hiking in the shallow streambeds of Bull Creek. There were rocks to climb, fern grottos to explore, creatures to find and (thanks to recent rains) lots and lots of splashing to be done. 

Plan Your Visit:

Bull Creek District Park

6701 Lakewood Dr., Austin, TX 78731

Walking the Woodland Faerie Trail at the Zilker Botanic Garden

We visited with the faeries and the gnomes at the 4th Annual Woodland Faerie Trail at the Zilker Botanical Gardens. We used our magnifying glasses to check out these tiny houses and look for their inhabitants and all the other creatures that call the gardens home. In our walk through the gardens, we spotted faeries, gnomes, butterflies, dragonflies, dinos, tadpoles (with and without legs), baby turtles, mama turtles, colorful koi and more.

Plan Your Visit:

Zilker Botanical Garden

2220 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78746

Birdwatching at Mueller Lake Park

Nature Playdate is for the birds! We met at Mueller Lake Park where we made binoculars to take with us on a birdwatching hike around the lake. We read about birds and learned about how biologists make scientific observations about animals in the wild. We recorded our observations about the types of birds we saw around the lake, using a field guide to identify different species.

Plan Your Visit:

Mueller Lake Park

4550 Mueller Blvd, Austin, TX 78723

Earth Day Service Project at Mayfield Park

To celebrate Earth Day, we returned to one of our favorite parks  - Central Austin's Mayfield Park and Preserve.  We made pinecone bird feeders and talked about our responsibilities to protect our favorite natural spaces.  Afterwards, we hiked in the preserve to find places to hang our bird feeders and cooled off our toes in the stream.  We finished up the morning with a special Earth Day treat - chocolate mud pots!

Plan Your Visit:

Mayfield Preserve

3505 West 35th Street, Austin, TX

Wildflowers at Longview Park

Spring is in the air and wildflowers are popping up all over Austin.  We celebrated the arrival of spring with a morning of nature play at Longview Park in South Austin.  We hiked the trails to collect wildflowers and then made flower and leaf prints and built flower presses to preserve our treasures.

Plan Your Visit:

Longview Park

7609 Longview Rd., Austin, TX 78745

Habitats at Yett Creek

Our little naturalists had so much fun exploring Yett Creek Park. We hiked in three different habitats - the forest, the field and the stream - listened to birds, wondered about burned logs, found some bones, examine tracks (deer and a coyote and her pup?), climbed trees, splashed in the stream, expanded the fort, played hide and seek and collected A LOT of sticks. 

Plan Your Visit:

Yett Creek Neighborhood Park

12538 Riata Vista Circle, Austin, TX 78727

Pop Up Hike to Secret Beach

For President's Day, we hiked down to the Secret Beach at Roy Guerrero Colorado River Park. We'll explored the beach, splashed in the shallow water and collected and stacked rocks.

Plan Your Visit:

Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park

400 Grove Blvd., Austin, TX 78741

Honeybees at the Austin Nature and Science Center

We got to know honey bees at the Austin Nature and Science Center's travelling exhibit, Bee-lieve It or Not: The Secret Lives of Honey Bees. In addition to checking out the exhibit and meeting the center's resident bees (safely behind glass, of course!), we learned about and role-played all the different jobs that bees do to make honey and take care of the hive.  We shared homemade honey lollipops and finished off the morning visiting the rescue animals and digging for bones in the dino pit.

Plan Your Visit:

Austin Nature and Science Center

2389 Stratford Drive, Austin 78746

https://austintexas.gov/department/austin-nature-and-science-center

Snow Day at Pease Park

Austin isn't too likely to have a blizzard this winter, but that didn't keep us from having a snow day! We made our own "snow" and cooked up (or shook up!) some ice cream in a bag.  We hiked in the ramble and along the Shoal Creek Greenbelt Trail, talked about hibernation and where animals go in winter and even built a "camp fire" to keep us warm on a chilly morning.
 
Plan your visit:
 
Pease Park
1100 Kingsbury Street, Austin, TX 78703
http://peasepark.org/

Winter Nature Art and Ornaments at Mayfield Park

For our last Nature Playdate of 2015, we celebrated the start of winter and the upcoming holidays with a morning of nature art and ornament making at Mayfield Park. We explored the gardens and took a short hike in the preserve where we collected nature materials (leaves, feathers, berries, nuts, etc) that we brought home to turn into holiday art and ornaments, including stick stars, pinecone bird feeders and salt dough pressed ornaments.
Plan your visit:
 
Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve
3505 West 35th Street, Austin, TX 78703
www.mayfieldpark.com

Nature Play at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

We shared a wonderful morning of free nature play in the Family Garden - Climbing trees, watering the plants, searching for fish and frogs in the dinosaur creek and much more.
 
Plan your visit:
 
Family Garden at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
4801 LaCrosse Avenue, Austin, TX
www.wildflower.org

Pumpkin Playdate

The fall rains were not too cooperative causing us to cancel one playdate and its raindate, but we still managed to celebrate the return of fall with one great pumpkin playdate. We learned about how pumpkins grow, took a hayride around the farm, visited with the animals and tackled the corn mazes and the hay bale mountain.  The kids each took home a mini pumpkin to decorate or subject to science experiments. 
 
Plan your visit:
 
Elgin Christmas Tree Farm
120 Nature's Way, Elgin TX
www.elginchristmastreefarm.com

Springdale Farm

We spent two wonderful mornings touring the remarkable Springdale Farm, a family-owned sustainable urban farm in East Austin.  We walked the farm, checked out all the crops currently in season and visited with the hens and the ducks.  The favorite was exploring what the kids called the "zucchini tunnel" - an amazing archway of different varieties of squash and gourds.  Kids and grown-ups had lots of fun finding all the vegetables in the tunnel and trying to guess what they are.
 
After our tour, we met under the big tree to talk about composting and made a miniature composting system in a plastic bag to take home.  Find the directions for the composting project here.
 
Plan your visit:
 
Springdale Farm
755 Springdale Road, Austin, TX 78702
www.SpringdaleFarmAustin.com
 
Their farm stand and grounds are open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 am - 1 pm.

Bat Watching Picnic at the Congress Avenue Bridge

We met for an evening picnic on the lawn under the Congress Avenue Bridge at the Austin American-Statesman's Bat Observation Center to observe and learn more about the largest urban bat colony in the world.  While we waited for the main event, we made our own crafty bats and learned more about Austin's bat colony from the great folks at Bat Conservation International (read more about their important work at www.batcon.org).
 
At dusk, we were treated to the amazing flight of 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats as they emerged from their homes under the bridge and headed out along Lady Bird Lake to eat their share of the 30,000 pounds of insects the colony consumes every night. Thank you, bats! 
 
It was truly a remarkable sight for both kids and parents!
 
Plan your visit:
 
Austin American-Statesman's Bat Observation Center
305 South Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
www.batcon.org/congress
Bats can be viewed at dusk from April through October.  For current emergence times, call 512-327-9721 ext. 16.

Hike and Swim at Emma Long Park

We started with an early morning hike along the Turkey Creek Trail.  We hiked about 1 and 1/2 miles along the creek, where we collected rocks and berries, watched tiny snakes, tried to catch frogs of all sizes, made fairy houses and climbed a tree or two.  
Then we headed down to the beach for a morning of swimming, shell collecting, sand castle building, visiting with the swans and ducks and exploring along the shoreline.  We also made water telescopes to investigate life in the lake.  To make your own, simply cut both ends off a large aluminum can and tightly cover one end with a layer of plastic wrap secured with duct tape. When kids submerge the covered end under the surface of the water, they can get a clearer and more close-up view of all the plants and creatures that live in the water.
 
Plan Your Visit:
 
Emma Long Metropolitan Park
1600 City Park Road, Austin, TX 78730
austinparks.org/our-parks.html?parkid=247

Butterflies at the Zilker Botanical Garden

We met at Austin's lovely Zilker Botanical Garden to explore the world of the butterflies.  We started in their Children's Garden where we read a story about the butterfly life cycle - Eric Carle's classic The Hungry Caterpillar - and then acted out the life cycle - egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly.  Armed with a butterfly identification sheet and our magnifying glasses, we then headed down to the Butterfly Garden to see what we could find. And no visit to the Botanical Garden would be complete without a stop to see the dinosaur in the Prehistoric Garden and the koi in the Japanese Garden. Families went home with materials to make a butterfly feeder and with a milkweed seedling to plant as monarch butterfly habitat. Instructions for both are available here.
 
Plan your visit:
 
Zilker Botanical Garden
2220 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78746
www.zilkergarden.org

Nature Scavenger Hunt at Mayfield Park

We kicked off the summer with a delightful morning at Mayfield Park & Preserve, one of Austin's hidden gems.  After talking very briefly with the kids about ways that we can take care of nature during our visit, we set out to explore the gardens and to meet the peacocks, turtles, frogs and other animals that find their homes in the garden.  The older kids completed a nature scavenger hunt - find it here.  The younger kids wore "nature superhero bracelets" - strips of duct tape around their wrists to which they could attach their treasures.  After the gardens, we took a short hike in the preserve.  With the recent rains, there were three stream crossings, which the kids handled like pros. But I'm sure the favorite part of the morning - for kids and parents alike - was splashing in the fresh, clear water of the stream.  
 
Plan your visit:
 
Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve
3505 West 35th Street, Austin, TX 78703
www.mayfieldpark.com
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